New insights into sexual functioning and fertility in rheumatic diseases

Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2004 Apr;18(2):219-32. doi: 10.1016/j.berh.2004.01.002.


Sexuality is an often neglected area of quality of life in patients with rheumatic disease. Manifestations and symptoms of disease can impair sexual functioning, but this can be much improved by adequate intervention and counseling. Fertility is in general not reduced in rheumatic diseases, however, the time taken to achieve a pregnancy is often increased. An increased rate of pregnancy loss is observed in systemic lupus erythematosus and the antiphospholipid syndrome contributing to a reduced family size. Autoantibodies are present in most of the rheumatic diseases and can interfere with fertilization, implantation, embryonic development and placental function. Active disease disturbs the hypothalamic-pituitary-axis, giving rise to periods of gonadal dysfunction. Toxic effects of immunosuppressive drugs can induce transient or permanent gonadal failure in women and men.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fertility*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Quality of Life
  • Rheumatic Diseases / complications*
  • Rheumatic Diseases / physiopathology
  • Rheumatic Diseases / psychology
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / etiology*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / psychology
  • Sexuality*